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A Question of Order in North Alabama PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sylvester Hassell   

The Gospel Messenger--June 1902

A highly esteemed brother writes me:-”Suppose a church ex­cludes an Elder for heresy, and his exclusion causes a division in the Association, and divides some churches. One side goes to an extreme upon the eternal manhood of Christ and the absolute predestination of all things; the other goes to the extreme of making the preaching of the gospel a means of quickening the dead sinners into spiritual or eternal life. There are four Associa­tions in correspondence with each side of this divided Association; that is, each one of these wings is in correspondence with four different Associations. Those brethren that have been off on the manhood of Christ and the predestination of all things are now willing to leave off all expressions that give offence to their breth­ren and come back and let the past be the past; but some of the brethren on the opposite side want all they have baptized since the division to be re-baptized, and all ordained to be re-ordained, while they themselves are not willing to make any concessions although one side was as far off on doctrine as the other. Would it not be better for them to accept the baptisms and ordinations of the opposite party, though some were baptized by the excluded Elder? Would not such a course be in keeping with the past histo­ry of the Baptists? If we undertake to correct all irregularities. when would we, if ever, get to the end? Brother Hassell, I wish you to give us an article on the above through the Messenger.”

We here see how Associations and formal and responsible corres­pondence between them (which are of modern and human origin, and are entirely unknown in the Scriptures as having the slightest authority to settle questions of faith or practice) have spread this lamentable trouble in one church not only to all the other churches of that Association, but also to at least eight other Associations, and seems likely to make the confusion and division permanent! In regard to the position and attitude of the two opposing sides, one side verges towards the extreme of docetism and fatalism, but are now willing to give up all their extreme and offensive expressions and to dwell in peace and fellowship with their brethren on the other side again; but the other side verges towards instrumentalism and arminianism, and are not willing to give up any of their extreme and offensive expressions, nor even to fellowship the first side unless the latter rebaptize all who have been baptized and re-ordain all who have been ordained by that side since the division.

It seems to me that in the light of the Scriptures, and also ac­cording to Baptist custom, there would be no trouble in deciding that the conciliatory attitude of the first side is right, and the un­yielding attitude of the second side is wrong, and that the latter ought also to abandon their extreme and offensive expressions, and again dwell in peace and fellowship with the brethren of the first side without requiring any re-baptism or re-ordinations ex­cept that those immersed by the excluded Elder should be bap­tized. We read of no re-ordination in the Scriptures, and of only one occasion of re-baptism (in Acts xix. 1-7), in which ease the Apostle Paul re-baptized twelve disciples at Ephesus who had been baptized, (perhaps by some professed disciple of John the Baptist) unto John’s baptism, in ignorance of the Holy Ghost and in unbelief in Christ. Many of the churches mentioned in the New Testament had doctrinal or practical errors, and yet re­baptism or re-ordination is never commanded by the Holy Spirit for the cleansing of those churches-they are simply required to con­fess and forsake their errors, and come back to the paths of truth and righteousness. We do not know, and it would be impossible for us to correct all the irregularities in all the Primitive Baptist churches in the world, especially if we had to trace the churches back to the Apostolic age.

But there is no mention, in the Script­ures, of the baptism of any person by an excluded Elder, and no intimation that such a baptism would be valid. It would, there­fore, seem the scriptural teaching that all persons who have been immersed by the excluded Elder should be received and baptized by church authority. If the faction of his own church that fol­lowed him is recognized as a church, then of course his baptisms have been valid; and perhaps, under all the circumstances, for the sake of ending this complicated and protracted arid destructive war, the validity of his baptisms should be admitted. But for associational discipline in the matter, it is most likely that this distressing confusion and division would have been far less widely spread and far less lasting.


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